iGEM Groningen 2010

pushing coatings into a greener future

A self assembling bio-based coating is form, a rigid biofilm.
Expression of hydrophobic proteins called chaplins is induced by the biofilm causing strong surface hydrophobicity.
The strongly hydrophobic biofilm will die off by a killswitch, leaving a nice hydrophobic biological coating.

Self assembling hydrophobic biofilm

We aim to design a biological coating as an alternative to for example chemical coatings. For this we, unconventionally, utilized a Bacillus subtilis biofilm. We wanted to enable our biofilm to be equipped with an interesting property which is automatically initiated. So we introduced an expression trigger which relies on quorum sensing. Our project was directed at finding an alternate solution to biofouling, since regular, chemical coatings which are widely in use pose a threat to the environment. In nature the lotus leaves show self-cleansing properties ascribed to their extreme surface hydrophobicity. In the prokaryotic domain we stumbled upon chaplins, strongly hydrophobic proteins originating from Streptomyces coelicolor. Surface hydrophobicity is a very useful property and is used in many applications ranging from not only antifouling coatings but also other applications which require water repellence to applications in the field of medical sciences. During our project we have contributed to the parts registry whit numerous BioBricks.

We believe that there is a great future for biological coatings as demonstrated within the project. Hydrophobic biological coatings can provide a greener antifouling solution. However using the underlying mechanisms of biofilm triggered expression for other systems like dynamic painting, sensing of environmental changes or even the integration with silicon chips might be within the realm of possibilities. So we challenge coming iGEM teams to further explore and brainstorm about the possibilities of using biofilms as a host for a wide range of applications.

This year a team of young inspired undergraduates from the University of Groningen participated in the amazing challenge of iGEM. A multi-disciplinary team of Molecular Biologists, Chemists, Computer Scientists, Journalists and others spend the summer creating a wonderful project in the emerging field of synthetic biology
Using computer models we worked on the frontiers of knowledge. Gene expression was simulated and a simple explanation for cell differentiation was proposed. Also aiding in ethics and practical feasibility a kill switch system was studied. Finally a new standard was proposed for characterizing Biobrick parts so future can be streamlined.
Human Practices
Because we believe that synthetic biology can better the lives of people and ensure long term prosperity for all humans we spend time educating high school students. But not all is perfect so risks were assessed and we philosophized on the ethical aspects of synthetic biology.

Our sponsors

Sigma Aldrich DSM NGI GBB Kluyver Center Bioké Stichting biotechnology Nederland (SBN) 101 promotions Center for Synthetic Biology